Without question, the war in Iraq is still viewed by most Americans as the single most important issue facing the country, but a new survey indicates immigration could emerge as a defining issue for the next administration.

The war on terror and its most visible face, the ongoing military and political campaign to establish a Mideast foothold for liberty in Baghdad, is viewed as the dominant issue for some 54 percent of Americans, according to a new Rasmussen Reports poll.

But, the survey says, nearly one-third of those questioned – 29 percent – believe immigration, not Iraq, is a more important voting issue.

“That’s … remarkably high for an issue that both major political parties have generally avoided,” said the Rasmussen survey.

In addition, there is a wide political chasm separating the issue.

“Democrats overwhelmingly say Iraq is the most important issue. Seventy-one percent of Howard Dean’s party hold that view while only 15 percent name immigration as more important,” said Rasmussen.

By comparison, “Republicans are evenly divided – 42 percent say immigration is a more important issue while 41 percent name Iraq.”

And of those who say they are not affiliated with either major party, 47 percent named Iraq the most important, while 30 percent said immigration.

A majority – 58 percent – think the United States should build a barrier the length of its border with Mexico, but support dwindles when the term “barrier” is replaced by “wall.”

Also, more than half of those surveyed, or 54 percent, held a favorable view of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a group of volunteers organized to stand watch along segments of the U.S.-Mexico border and report illegal immigration to the U.S. Border Patrol.

In a separate Rasmussen survey, three-quarters of Americans said they believe it is far too easy for people from other countries to enter the U.S.

The telephone survey of 1,000 adults was conducted Dec. 9-10. Thirty-seven percent of survey respondents were Republican, 37 percent Democrat and 26 percent were unaffiliated.

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